With Cissie as my VAL (Voice Actuated Lightstand), I had much more flexibility in the actual placement of my light. But considering the close quarters we’d be working in, I had to take portability into consideration, in addition to keeping things as simple as possible. Instead of my usual monopod, I had decided to use a Canon Chest Pod that I bought used for a song. And while it gave me an extended length of 20 inches, its practical length was considerably longer when I had someone else to do the extending. If I needed to make a low angle shot with the camera at ground level, Cissie could get my light almost eight feet above my camera’s line of sight, a useful capability.
On camera bounce flash has always been a useful technique, and since I decided to use Fuji bodies, I would be forced to use my Fuji EF-42 if I was to have TTL capabilities. Normally I might resort to non-TTL automation on one of my Nikon speedlights, but this feature only works with relatively high output, low ISO combinations. Had I attempted to use an SB-800 in non-TTL mode, my minimum working aperture would be F8.0 when coupled with the ISO setting of 1600 I planned on using. TTL would be the only way I could handle working apertures of F 2.0, or lower. Besides this output limitation, I would be totally dependent on finding usable bounce surfaces on location, something you can’t always count on.
Having Cissie to run interference allowed me a second option. Lacking bounce surfaces, some sort of modified direct light would be needed. I decided to use an SB-800 with one of Gary Fong’s Light Sphere.As recommended, the wide angle diffusion panel was used for maximum spread. I also installed the factory CTO equivalent gel so that my light would match the high-intensity quartz lights used to illuminate the booths. And as a final touch, I covered the whole affair in a plastic bag, which added a tiny bit more diffusion, but primarily kept the whole thing dry. By leaving my white balance setting on daylight, everything lit by the flash would have a warm glow.
|Step #1: Gel in place.|
|Step #2: Head tilted up|
|Step #3: Good to Go!|
Take a quick look at the "Cloud Dome", the giant opaque contact lens that covers the "mouth" of the Light Sphere. When the flash head point up, the dome should be installed so that the dome's curve is inside. This allows light to bounce off the inside surface of the dome and out through the Light Sphere. (Gary Fong has a name for everything!)
Triggering the speedlight was another problem. Had I brought a Nikon DSLR, I could have used a second, shoe-mounted SB-800 as a commander. Going with the Fuji forced me to find an alternative triggering method and way to determining proper exposure. I solved the triggering problem by using an inexpensive EBay radio trigger set, one where the receiver had a shoe on top to hold the flash, and a ¼ x 20 thread underneath. Compact (and fragile), it screwed into the Canon Chest Pod, giving me both the height and the connectivity I wanted.
As I mentioned, this arrangement forced me to forego TTL exposure control. Instead, I adjusted the flash output for proper exposure at F 2.0 at a distance of 5 feet at 1/32 power and an ISO of 1600. Cissie and and devised a simple working code:
- Move Closer: If a quick preliminary check showed that I needed a bit more exposure, I'd tell Cissie to move closer. To the subject, that is.
- Come Towards Me: In this case, Cissie would move in an arc, keeping the flash to subject distance constant. In most cases, I usually simply told her to stay on my left, a habit I adopted to insure proper alignment when using the Nikon commander system, and leave it to Cissie to maintain the proper distance.
- "Harod's Nose": This is a new one. Assuming that I wanted a butterfly-style lighting on a subject turned slightly away, this command simply means to position the flash directly in front of the plane of the subject's face.
- Grabbing At The Sky: No words here. Cissie would lower the flash so I could manually increase, or decrease, its output.
I missed the faster focusing performance of the DSLR, but wanted to use my fastest glass for what was really a night shoot. My kit contained two bodies with a 35mm 1.4 and an 18mm 2.0. And I like the images that the Fujis make. It may be my imagination, but they seem to perform better at the higher ISO settings than my Nikons. It was a simple matter of fumbling in my bag to get the lens I wanted, but I still felt hampered by the overall slowness of the Fuji.
My final assignment of 2015 was also shot with my Fujis. This time I attempted to juggle three bodies, a messenger bag, and a windbreaker while photographing in the presence of some very large, albeit very gentle, horses from Odyssio.